Is weight loss surgery right for you?

Stock image, St. George News

FEATURE — One year ago, around this time, I had a patient I will call Sarah who walked into my office considering weight loss surgery. Sarah was more than 100 pounds overweight with a body mass index of 40 and was suffering from other ailments, including sleep apnea, depression and arthritis.

On top of all that, Sarah had been on Weight Watchers on five different occasions; she had done LA Weight Loss, Nutrisystem, Optifast and even the American Heart Association’s diet.

On all of those occasions, weight was either lost and regained or not lost at all. She was frustrated, as well as worried about her long-term health. Sarah’s story is one medical providers see often. Many people feel like their options are exhausted. They want something that will help them with their long-term health.

Surgical weight loss has been around in various forms for more than 30 years. Recently, a lot of attention has been focused on these procedures because of an explosion in obesity rates around the country and indeed around the world.

Three in five Americans are either overweight or obese, and in the past 20 years, adult obesity has doubled. It is estimated that more than 300,000 premature deaths occur annually because of obesity. The death rate from obesity is rapidly approaching that of smoking.

The causes of obesity can be various, including genetic predisposition, physiological, behavioral, psycho-social and even societal. Additionally, there is a lot of pressure, both imposed by ourselves and society, to lose weight or to meet a certain body image. Many medical providers involved in surgical weight loss have goals to help you achieve results that have been previously unattainable through other methods of strictly exercise and diet.

If this rings true to you, here are three things to evaluate when considering weight loss surgery:

  1. Do I have a body mass index greater than 35?
  2. Have other more conservative methods of diet and exercise been ineffective at losing and keeping the weight off?
  3. Am I willing to commit to the process required to qualify for weight loss surgery by my insurance company or do I have the funds to forgo involving my insurance and agree to the cash price?

For Sarah, the answers to those questions were all yes, and so she decided to have the surgery. After her surgery, she followed the postoperative instructions that were given to her, as well as the nutritional and physical activity guidelines that we laid out for her. She was on her way.

Now, one year later, Sarah recently came into my office for her annual follow-up appointment. Having stuck to the guidelines we gave her, she has lost 94 pounds, her BMI is now 23, she is the most active she’s ever been and she is happy.

Weight loss surgery is not for everyone. Contact your health care provider with questions.

Jared Speakman
Jared Speakman

Written by Jared Speakman for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News. Speakman is a surgeon at Utah Surgical Associates. He attended the University of Utah School of Medicine and attended residency at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City.




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  • Common Sense October 13, 2015 at 11:49 am

    It can work IF you commit to the life change of eating appropriate size servings and high quality nutrient rich foods. My sister in law was over 400lbs had the surgery lost 100 lbs in the first 6 months and then flat lined. She is convinced it does not matter what kind of calories she consumes and continues to eat cheese cubes and salami slices or frozen meatballs and diet soda. Meanwhile her meals are getting larger and she is re-stretching out her stomach. She also eats McDonalds daily. She thinks because she gets the small kids meal it is fine because it is fewer calories. Heaven forbid she should eat anything wholesome.

  • anybody home October 13, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    That photograph with the story is blatantly misleading. People who have weight loss surgery don’t look like this after the surgery (although they wish they would and are sold a bill of goods that they will). Sounds like the doctor here is honest about possible problems, but the SGN needs to get a grip and use a photo that reflects the truth.

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